It could have been better, but it could easily have been worse. That pretty much sums up the feeling in Spain after Villarreal left Highbury a goal adrift last Wednesday night.

It leaves the Spaniards needing to record their first two-goal victory in this season's Champions League - and breach an Arsenal defence which has kept a record nine consecutive clean sheets in the competition.

That seems a tall order. An away goal for Arsenal would make them overwhelming favourites to reach the Final, but Villarreal have already dented some rather big reputations this season. Opinion is split on whether they can produce yet another upset.

"Villarreal is like a novelty team in this type of competition," says Santiago Fuertes of El Pais. "But at the weekend they played none of their good players so they are clearly taking it very, very seriously.

"After the first leg Villarreal were complaining bitterly about the referee, especially because of the incident between Jose Mari and Gilberto. There was a foul just inside the box and they complained a lot about it.

"My personal impression is that they were impressed by Arsenal. On the one hand they were happy that Arsenal only scored one goal but on the other hand there was the penalty which, if it had been given, would have given Villarreal an away goal.

"They were impressed by Gilberto. The players said they were 'choked' because of his marking of Juan Roman Riquelme. He did a good job and Riquelme lost his nerve a bit. He was outraged by the decision not to give a penalty and that is his way, it was the same when he was at Boca Juniors and Barcelona.

"I think Arsenal are the superior team. Arsène Wenger has done an intelligent job and he has more options than Villarreal, because they rely on one man to make things happen."

That 'one man' is, as ever, Riquelme. As Fuertes points out, Gilberto stifled him in the first leg. But with Villarreal in desperate need of a goal, the man dubbed as the 'quarterback' by Wenger is expected to have a greater influence at El Madrigal.

Will Riquelme be enough? The Argentinian is almost certain to carve out chances with his vision and expertise from dead-ball situations, but who else do Arsenal need to nullify?

"Forlan," is Fuertes' instant reply. "The whole team plays around Riquelme but there has to be someone who puts the passes into the goal. Forlan is not the same player as he was last year when he got the Golden Boot but if he plays well then Villarreal can go through.

"They have to stop Arsenal scoring and the defence has some players missing through injury, but they are still a tough side with the South Americans like Juan Pablo Sorin.

"The Villarreal team has some bite, they will be very competitive. And of course, they will look to get Riquelme into space whenever they can. He needs to get away from Gilberto and get more time on the ball."

The message is simple. Keep the main man quiet, and Arsenal can start dreaming of Paris.

20/1 - Villarreal v Arsenal - Henry to score first and Arsenal to win 1-0

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
24 Apr 2006